The Philippine government will not shrink from discussing with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson the “exaggerated media reports” on human rights (HR) violations attributed to President Duterte’s brutal drug war, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Friday.
Tillerson is expected to arrive in Manila on Saturday to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum in Pasay City on Aug. 7. He will join the all-important meeting of the regional bloc and its 10 dialogue partners—the United States, Russia, China, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India and the European Union.
Washington said its top diplomat will discuss the United States’ concerns on the human rights situation in the Philippines during a possible meeting between Mr. Duterte and Tillerson.
On Monday, the leaders will hold the East-Asia summit and the Asean Regional Forum, the world’s biggest security gathering of foreign ministers from 27 countries. The meetings will officially conclude on Tuesday.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said no announcement has been made yet of a meeting between Tillerson and Mr. Duterte.
Tillerson will raise all relevant issues in the US alliance with the Philippines, acting US Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Susan Thornton said in Washington on Wednesday.
Thornton said Tillerson’s trip to Manila will provide a chance for a robust bilateral program with the Philippines on the sidelines of the security meetings.
In a statement, the DFA said Tillerson’s visit would give the Duterte administration a chance to set the record straight regarding the alleged worsening human rights situation in the country.
“The Philippines is the oldest democracy in Asia and respect for human rights is a shared valued especially with our treaty ally, the United States. Discussions on the issue of human rights are always included in our engagements with foreign governments,” the DFA said.
“We welcome the visit of top US state department officials to the Philippines to participate in the Asean-related meetings… We welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and correct the perceptions they may have gleaned from exaggerated media reports,” it said.
But the DFA stressed that “no country has a perfect human rights situation.”
The foreign department said Philippine officials would also brief their US counterparts about the present security situation in Marawi City, parts of which were still being occupied by the Islamic State-linked Maute terror group.
It said the meeting would also focus on efforts to address the rising global terror threat and to improve the “Philippine-US economic and people-to-people engagement.” —WITH A REPORT FROM AP
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